With OpenStack Foundation, the devil’s in the details

Members of the OpenStack community are, for the most part, pleased by news that RackSpace (s RAX) will relinquish control of the OpenStack effort but want to see how the foundation is set up and staffed before endorsing it wholeheartedly.

Any foundation must replicate and build upon successful past open-source group efforts such as the Apache Software Foundation and the Linux Foundation, said attendees of the OpenStack Conference in Boston. They said lingering concern over Rackspace’s power over the OpenStack effort to date drove the move.

“The model is there for this. The Eclipse Foundation did an awesome job–but IBM (s IBM) had to get out of the way first,” said a software developer for one of the Linux distributions who was at the conference.

Whatever the foundation’s makeup, the goal is to keep the resulting platform open and evolving, said Chris Kemp, CEO of Nebula and former CTO of NASA. Rackspace said the transfer of the OpenStack intellectual property and trademarks should be done by 2012.

The challenge is huge as OpenStack partisans position their effort as the open-platform equivalent to Amazon Web Services (s amzn) and VMware (s vmw) efforts.

“If this platform does not emerge as the Linux of the open data center, then we’ve done the wrong thing,” Kemp told attendees Thursday morning.

“I will bluntly state when I see a company like Sun acquired by Oracle(s orcl), whose  value is a completely integrated platform, that’s scary. It locks everybody else out of that ecosystem, and Exadata becomes ‘Exadollar’ to lock out innovation, interoperatiblity and portability,” Kemp said. Exadata was the first of a handful of hardware-software data center appliances launched by Oracle in the past two years.

The anti-Oracle meme surfaced several times both in keynotes and in attendee discussions. Lew Moorman, president of Rackspace’s cloud effort, flashed a photo of Oracle’s glossy headquarters building and referred to it as “the high temple of lock-in.”

“There’s a lot of work to be done and there’s already been a lot of politicking behind the scenes,” said an executive with a hardware company that backs OpenStack who would not speak for attribution. “It depends on who the leadership is and the devils are in the details,” he added.